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Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Oxford
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Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Hi

Our flights and car are booked for a fortnight in mid-late March, but can any of you experts help with the itinerary?

We are two 60 year old “place droppers” (aka name droppers), with a zest for cultural and scenic travel, and just an occasional theme park. But we will be accompanied by a daughter half our age. So a couple of Orlando parks, followed by the Keys and the Everglades, would seem to be right - with the odd beach, some insight into how others live, and as little shopping as possible! Maybe something like this:

Day1: Arrive Orlando 17:30; collect car; find base (place/hotel/motel) for 4 nights

Day2: Gentle day, looking around and maybe going to a simple water park?

Day3: EPCOT

Day4: Seaworld

Day5: Kennedy Space Centre; find base for 1 night, between Cocoa Beach and Ft Lauderdale!

Day6: Drive to Lower Keys/Key West (via J Pennekamp Park); find base for 4 nights.

Day7: Bahia Honda State Park, Hemmingway House, Mallory Square, Duval St,

Day8: Dry Tortugas? Yankee Freedom, duration 8:00am-5:30pm, $168pp

Day9: Tropical/Botanic Garden (10-4, $5), Sunset snorkel combo (5-8pm, $45)

Day10: Drive back towards the Everglades; find base for 1 night –Homestead?

Day11: Drive to Flamingo (visiting Nat.Park stop offs/ trails); camp for 1 night.

Day12: Ranger led canoe tour, drive to Everglades city via Snake Valley; find base for 1 night

Day13: Boat tour (am), then drive to Marco Island; find base for 2 nights

Day14: Gentle day around Marco Island beaches

Day15: Drive to Orlando airport for 19:10 flight (180ml, 4h)

In particular

(a) Can anyone recommend a base (place/hotel/motel) to stay between KSC and Miami

(b) Is a brief drive-by enough to get an impression of Miami and its environs?

(c) Which of the Lower Keys or Key West would make a better/convenient base?

(d) What’s camping like at Flamingo in late March (temperature/insects/etc)?

(e) Is there a better/more convenient base than Marco Island for a final lazy day?

Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

Thanks

Johnie

Fort Myers, Florida
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606 posts
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1. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

If you are name droppers, as you say, then staying a night on South Beach sounds about right for you. Plenty of fancy places to stay and dine. Since your Keys activities are mostly in Key West, I would stay there so you can park your car and forget about it til you leave. Stop at Bahia Honda on your way to or from rather than backtracking, since it is a good hour from KW. Although if you do visit on a separate day, check out Big Pine Key and its deer. Marco is a good place to relax before flying home. I would allow a bit more than 4 hours to get to the airport though.

Oxford
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2. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Thanks 16Traveler16,

Yes, I thought my daughter would have liked South Beach too. We did go there many years ago, and my wife is not so keen to repeat it. I suppose my reservations are whether it is too far to go after having done Kennedy Space Centre earlier in the day, and whether it is worth it as a 1 night stopover (moving on immediately for the Keys and not making good use of the beach).

And that underlies my unease over Miami. BA have a recommended fly-drive route that spends 8 nights getting from Orlando to the Keys, stopping at West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Ft Lauderdale and South Beach to "relax on the stunning beaches" and "enjoy the nightlife and shopping"! Am I missing out that much by skipping past all this with just one stopover?

On the Keys, yes, I probably favour staying on Key West, but I understand getting a Hotel room may be difficult. It also seems a shame to gun through from Miami to Key West in a day, missing many sights along the way (Big Pine noted!)

Thanks for the comment on the drive time from Marco to Orlando. I got a time of about 3h 45m using a route planner, and I was aiming to get to Orlando by 16:10 at the latest (3h to return the car and check in at the airport). So I was considering leaving Marco at around 10am and stopping somewhere for a quick lunch on the way. Do you think that is enough time, or maybe I should really find a place nearer Orlando for our last night.

Thanks for your very helpful comments

Johnie

Fort Myers, Florida
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606 posts
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3. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Personally, I don't think the 4 cities you mentioned on the east coast are all that significantly different that they warrant separate stops as BA suggested. But I'm not a shopper and certainly not an expert on the east coast. Plus, it's not my impression there is much nightlife (on a daily basis) unless you are in South Beach. If you are just passing through for one day, I would leave the Space Center late in the day, get a hotel south of Miami so you can get a decent start in the a.m. into the Keys, and not worry about trying to overnight on the beach on the way south. Just my preference, though.

Leaving at 10 from Marco should leave you plenty of time for a 7 pm flight. Orlando traffic can be a bit of hassle, so door to door in under 4 hours would be pretty lucky.

Also - do you already have a camping reservation for Flamingo? I think they are fairly busy that time of year. Are you bringing your own gear? They don't rent any within the park.

Miami, FL
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4. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Day 12- Staying in Everglades City. There isn't anything in Everglades City. What was the thinking there?

I love the itinerary even though you snubbed my beautiful Miami lol.

Saludos,

Yogi

Oxford
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21 posts
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5. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Hi all, and thanks for the comments.

OK, I'm happy to go straight from KSC to a hotel south of Miami (sorry Yogi) – Homestead maybe – and get onto the Keys that much earlier.

And thanks, I’ll reserve at the Flamingo campsite (the recreation.gov website shows availability). We would bring a small tent with us – a pain if we only camp one night, but we did that once before - for Bright Angel Creek in the Grand Canyon! We didn’t need sleeping bags there (120F), and I was hoping we won’t at Flamingo in March (climate data shows mean max&min temperatures of 80&60F). Alternatively, maybe the less hardy of us could sleep in the car? I think we can get a breakfast at the Buttonwood Café in Flamingo. We really want to stay at Flamingo to get on the ranger led morning canoe trip (must reserve that too!).

For Yogi, my thinking on Everglades City is that it has Motels (I believe), and is close to the dock for a boat trip the next morning. After that we go to the beach!

Thanks again

Johnie

South Florida...
Destination Expert
for Miami, Key Largo
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6. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

I would consider spending the night in Florida City and driving to Flamingo in the morning rather than try to camp for 1 night. It will be a 30 - 45 min drive to Flamingo in the morning. Seems worth it to avoid having to drag a lot of stuff for camping. Don't assume you can sleep in the car since you may need to keep the windows closed (mosquitos)

Tampa, Florida
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8,291 posts
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7. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Though you didn't ask, I'll mention it anyway since you may be unaware of this. As of early last year the last part of the Florida Turnpike in the Miami area (which you will use to go to the Keys) has cashless tolls - there is no way to pay cash. The tolls are paid automatically by a toll transponder in the cars. The rental car companies charge a fee (plus the toll) for use of the transponders. This fee varies widely and some are considered to be in the outrageous category.

Read www.sunpass.com for details on the fees the various rental companies charge for using the transponder.

Oxford
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8. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Thanks AhHah

I had seen some comment on this in the Forum, and, although I didn't understand it properly, I also saw a comment that Alamo was OK - so I was happy to rent with them.

The link you posted has now explained it more fully, so thanks indeed.

Cheers

Johnie

Tampa, Florida
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8,291 posts
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9. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

Yes, you're lucky you're with Alamo. Have a pleasant visit.

Fort Myers, Florida
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606 posts
52 reviews
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10. Re: Fly-drive itinerary for Orlando/Keys/Everglades

The drive from Florida City to Flamingo is NOT 30-45 mins - it is 50 miles one way, some of it at slow park road speeds. Google maps puts it at 1.5 hours. I would contact the park for the best estimate if you decide not to camp.